Grounded in Origin

Grounded in Origin

The Multitude of Varieties in the Winegrowing Region of Alto Adige

Even if Alto Adige is among the smallest winegrowing regions in all of Italy, it has one of the widest spectrums of grape varieties. From the noble Schiava (Vernatsch) to the fruity Pinot Blanc and on to the crisp Sylvaner – more than twenty varieties grow in Alto Adige.

Thanks to the geographical location between north and south as well as the different soils, a whole host of grape varieties find their perfect terroir here. The winegrower chooses which variety to plant based upon the location. Originally dominated by Schiava, the varieties have developed in a new direction in Alto Adige in recent years. Today, the indigenous varieties such as Gewürztraminer are making room for newer varieties such as Pinot Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. The grape-growing areas in Alto Adige range from the rough, well-aerated, and steep slopes of the Val Venosta or the Valle Isarco to the Mediterranean, sun-drenched, and mild areas in the southern part of Alto Adige such as the Bolzano basin or the Oltradige and the winegrowing area around Lago di Caldaro and the Bassa Atesina.

Aside from the climatic conditions, the approximately 150 different types of rock and the different composition of soils that result from them have a great influence upon the growth of the vines. The selection of the suitable grape variety is consequently a complex matter. In Bolzano and vicinity, for example, soils from volcanic porphyry predominate, while in the Valle Isarco and the Val Venosta, it is above all else primitive rock soils that are found with quartz, mica, and slate. And in the south, the soils are dominated by limestone and dolomite.

To Every Variety Its Location

Alto Adige's winegrowers know their estates inside and out. What the soil composition is, which climatic conditions are to be taken into account, and in the end which grape varieties are to be planted. In the following areas, these varieties thrive best:

  1. Val Venosta: Thanks to its east-west orientation, this is a comparatively dry area in which it is first and foremost Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir that are planted.
  2. Valle Isarco: As a result of its harsh climate, this valley is the source for top-quality wines such as Kerner, Sylvaner, and Veltliner.
  3. Merano Area: In the Mediterranean climate around Merano, it is especially the leading varieties of Schiava, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc that thrive.
  4. Adige Valley (between Merano and Bolzano): On the red porphyry sandstone, white wines with a mineral-rich character flourish especially well.
  5. Bolzano and vicinity: While the noble Schiava of the Santa Maddalena develops its full-bodied aroma on the hill of the same name, the most powerful Lagrein crus in Alto Adige grow on the alluvial soils that warm easily with a great deal of sand and gravel which are found in the southwestern district of Gries.
  6. Appiano, Caldaro, and Lago di Caldaro: This is the place where it is above all else Schiava, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc that feel right at home.
  7. Termeno: As the German name for the village, Tramin, reveals, this is the predestined zone for Gewürztraminer.
  8. Cortaccia: As a result of the mild climate, late-maturing varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon do very well in this zone.
  9. Salorno: In this zone, it is primarily white wines that find their home.
  10. Egna/Montagna: This is the place where the best Pinot Noirs of the province flourish.

It is not so surprising that as a result of the higher temperatures at the lower elevations, the focus is on the late-maturing varieties such as Lagrein, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon. Wines that are filled with finesse such as Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, or Pinot Noir, on the other hand, do quite well at the higher locations. Climate change has also left behind its first signs with Alto Adige winegrowing, and thus the trend for the cultivation of the early-maturing varieties is moving higher and higher up.

And last but not least, we can also thank tradition for the wealth of varieties in Alto Adige. Early on, archdukes already brought the white Burgundy varieties as well as Riesling to Alto Adige, and these were followed later on by the Bordeaux varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. We have this ambitious spirit of innovation by winegrowers and winemakers to thank for the level of varieties in Alto Adige over the past few decades.

Tradition, innovation, and terroir: all the right factors for the great variety found in Alto Adige wines.
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